The federal government is on the verge of a partial shutdown for the first time since 2013, and Democrats and Republicans have been trying to set the other party up to take the blame all week. The 850,000 federal workers who would be furloughed without pay might be wondering what they'll do without a paycheck, but in Congress and the White House the question that remains is the one posed by The Washington Post: "Who will win in the court of public opinion?"
The early polls are mixed — a new Quinnipiac poll says 34 percent of the public would blame Democrats, 32 percent would blame Republicans, and 21 percent would blame Trump. Other polls have been slightly more favorable for the Democrats. So, who should take the blame?
Republicans control both houses of Congress, and while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was able to muscle through a stopgap spending bill, it doesn't appear Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has even 50 votes much less the 60 he needs to pass it. This is the fourth continuing resolution, and GOP appropriators put off spending bills to work on their unsuccessful ObamaCare repeal and successful tax cut. This impasse has raised serious "questions about the GOP's capacity — one year into the Trump administration — to govern," says The Washington Post. As Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said last August, "there will be no excuses and nobody else's fault but the Republican Party if this government does shut down."
Democrats are refusing to support this fourth stopgap measure mostly to force a resolution for DREAMers, or young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children. In a CBS News poll on Thursday, 90 percent of respondents back allowing DREAMers to stay in the U.S., but only 46 percent of those respondents think it's worth shutting down the government to protect them. Democrats don't oppose most of the other measures in the stopgap bill and enthusiastically support the six-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CNN's Erin Burnett dug up a 2013 clip of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) saying Democrats shutting down the government over immigration would be "governmental chaos."
The DREAMers issue has come to a head because Trump cancelled DACA, the program that protected them, last fall. He has also torpedoed bipartisan legislation to resolve the issue. "Unlike almost any president or administration before him, Trump has fanned the flames of a shutdown," The Washington Post says, and Trump's "evolving demands" on immigration "have created a moving target for Republicans, as they try to force concessions from Democrats." Or, you can just listen to Trump in 2013, as dragged up by Morning Joe on Friday, when he told Fox & Friends that the president always takes the blame for government shutdowns.
Realistically, unless it drags on, few voters will remember the shutdown by November. But for now, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is probably right: "I think this is a big loser for both sides, I really do."